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The Vestavia Hills Board of Education moved closer toward making a decision regarding facilities Wednesday after hearing a presentation with the final demographic data and options.
Tracey Richter of Cooperative Strategies presented the final enrollment projections and subdivision yield information after several months of demographic study.
The bottom line, Richter said, is that there is little doubt the district is going to see continued growth.
“The growth is going to continue and there’s no way to get out of that growth,” he said.
Richter went through the enrollment projections that were presented in February, but pointed out where the projections were adjusted after the subdivision yield study was done.
He explained that in looking at the subdivision yield, the firm evaluated the trends over the last several years with regard to building permits, price points for homes and the available room in the city to continue building.
Richter's data showed Vestavia with 13,860 housing units, with around 77 percent of those being single-family homes, 22 percent being multi-family units and less than 1 percent being townhomes.
For single-family homes K-12, Richter said they found the yield to be 0.53 students per home. In the Liberty Park area specifically, the yield was 0.76 students per home.
The yield per single family home was 0.24 elementary students, and for multi-family units the yield was 0.28 per unit, which Richter said is lower than would be expected for other areas, but with the high price points of apartments in Vestavia, he wasn't that surprised.
Currently, Richter said, there are 408 housing units in progress, 138 single-family and 270 multi-family. Additionally, vacant land in Liberty Park and Cahaba Heights has the potential for an additional 1,400 units.
The overall estimated yield, district wide, for current and future residential development was 1,658 students.
“It’s going to be somewhere in that 1,200-1,800 number,” Richter said, but added that he is pretty confident it will be closer to 1,800 because of the robust potential of the 1,400 future units.
BOE President Mark Hogewood asked what the time frame for adding that many students was, and Richter said a lot of that would depend on how cautious developers are in the next four to five years.
After the 2007-2008 financial crisis, he said he has seen increased conservatism in development, which may push out the full effect of the growth over the next 20-25 years.
But in the end, the students are expected to come and stay, and by 2026-2027 total just over 8,200.
After hearing the updated enrollment projections and subdivision yield data, Greg Ellis with Hoar Program Management went through the final four facilities options, looking at the pros, cons and costs of each project.
Option 1: Current elementary alignment, move Pizitz 6-8 to Berry, move Central 4-5 to Pizitz and Central becomes a 9-12 academy. Total cost: $54.8 million plus additional $1.7 million annual operational cost. Ellis said the pros include it being on the lower end of costs, it adds the academies facility and it does not require rezoning.
Option 2: K-5 elementary alignment, converting VHEE and VHEW to K-5. Pizitz 6-8 moves to Berry, Central 4-5 moves to Pizitz and becomes K-5 and Central becomes a 9-12 academy. Total cost: $54.8 million plus additional $1.7 million annual operational cost. Ellis explained that the second option was similar to the first, but requires rezoning to realign the elementary schools.
Ellis pointed out that even with creating the academy facility, eventually growth would catch back up to Vestavia Hills High School. There are options to build a new three-story building, four-story parking garage and a new athletics facility, but that project would cost an additional $50 million at least, and would cause significant traffic issues, potentially increase safety hazards for young drivers and would have to be phased in over time.
Option 3: Current elementary alignment and feeder patterns district wide. Moves Pizitz 6-8 to Berry, which becomes 6-9. Central 4-5 moves to Pizitz and the Central campus goes offline. Liberty Park Middle School becomes 6-9, and VHHS becomes 10-12. Total cost: $61.5 million, with an additional $2.2 million annual operational cost. Ellis said the pros include mitigating congestion at VHHS and addressing system-wide growth, along with saving the Central campus for later. The biggest draw back, he said, is the cost and fact that the elementary schools are not aligned.
Option 4: The fourth and final option is the same as Option 3, but converts all elementary schools to K-5 and adds a 9-12 academy facility at Central. Total cost: $65.6 million, with an additional $2.7 million in annual operational cost. Ellis said that this was the highest cost option and requires rezoning, but that it accomplishes all of the goals the BOE set out to achieve.
After the options were presented, BOE Vice President Nancy Corona asked if it was possible to combine the ideas from options three and four, aligning the elementary schools but reserving the Central campus and deciding at a later date whether or not to start the academy. That move, Ellis said, would say $5 million, keeping the overall project on budget and reducing the added operational costs to be added.
The board is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday, April 26, and Superintendent Sheila Phillips is expected to make a recommendation of a facilities option.